Fixture: (1) Rafael Nadal vs Ilya Ivashka
Date: 21 April 2021
Tournament: Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell 2021
Round: Second round (Round of 32)
Venue: Barcelona, Spain
Category: ATP 500
Surface: Red Clay
Prize money: €1,565,480
Match timing: Not before 4 pm local time, 7.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Rafael Nadal vs Ilya Ivashka preview
11-time Barcelona Open champion Rafael Nadal gets his 2021 campaign underway with a second-round match against Ilya Ivashka on Wednesday.
Despite his rich history at the tournament, Nadal actually hasn't triumphed in the Spanish city since 2018. He lost to eventual champion Dominic Thiem in the semifinals of the 2019 edition, and his hopes of reclaiming the crown last year were foiled as the event was called off.
The Spaniard hasn't had the best start to this year's clay season, getting bundled out of the Monte Carlo Masters last week by Andrey Rublev. But even though he has not had a lot of match practice coming into Barcelona, a perfect 15-0 record in opening round matches here will certainly give him a lot of confidence.
World No. 111 Ilya Ivashka, meanwhile, is making his debut at the Barcelona Open this year.
The Belarusian enjoys playing on faster courts over clay, where his big serve and flat groundstrokes do not get as much purchase. That said, Ivashka took eventual finalist Jaume Munar to three sets in the Andalucia Open quarterfinals a couple of weeks ago.
The Belarusian, who had to go through qualification to get into the Barclona main draw, beat Tallon Griekspoor in the first round on Monday to set up the meeting with Nadal.
Rafael Nadal vs Ilya Ivashka head-to-head
The first-round match in Barcelona will be the first-ever career meeting between Rafael Nadal and Ilya Ivashka, so the head-to-head currently stands at 0-0.
Rafael Nadal vs Ilya Ivashka prediction
Rafael Nadal has frequently neutralized big-hitting opponents on clay with his heavy forehand and versatile backhand. The Spaniard has the ability to keep his opponents at bay with his clever shotmaking, never allowing them to settle into a rhythm.
The only worry for Nadal on Wednesday might be his relatively loose play in the crunch moments of late. Nadal was very shaky on serve during his Monte Carlo match against Andrey Rublev, committing as many as seven double faults. The 34-year-old even called his serve a 'disaster' during his post-match interview.
That said, Ilya Ivashka doesn't quite have the claycourt credentials to be a serious threat to Nadal. The Spanish bull would be wary of Ivashka's big serve and groundstrokes, but once he gets into his groove he should have little trouble advancing to the Round of 16.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.